There has been a steady stream of Jane Austen sequels, movie adaptations and TV miniseries—even zombies have lumbered in—and they keep coming. Some are terrific, others terrifically awful. But now Austenistas can rejoice: P.D. James, the much-lauded mistress of the eloquently executed mystery, has slipped into Austen’s aura with such perfection that you’ll be sure she’s either a faultless time traveler or champion channeler. Death Comes to Pemberley is an excellent period mystery, replete with all manner of mayhem, and a most welcome way to revisit Elizabeth and Darcy, now happily married and delighting in their two children, as well as many other characters from Pride and Prejudice. James, steeped in Austenian prose, conjures them up and Rosalyn Landor, with her honeyed, elegant English accent, gives them voice. Ms. Austen would surely have approved of the literary felicity produced by this exemplary combo.
IN HARM’S WAY
Kristin Hannah’s Home Front, read with fine emotional nuance by Maggi-Meg Reed, is the kind of novel that grabs your heart as it draws you in. Nested in this love story and portrait of a family are some very big issues: duty, honor, what we owe our country, what our country owes us and what we owe our loved ones. Hannah looks at the choices we make and the drastic changes they can bring as she examines the impact of war on those who serve and those who wait at home. Jolene, a super-competent mother, wife and Black Hawk helicopter pilot, had always hidden her inner demons, making herself choose “happiness.” But when she returns from her deployment to Iraq, wounded in body and soul, plagued with guilt and PTSD, she’s no longer able to be all that she can be. What might have been a contemporary take on “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” becomes an intense, intimate look at what happened to this American family and to the love that bound Jolene and her husband and protected their precious children. Keep the Kleenex close, and breathe through the lumps in your throat.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
American Dervish is Ayad Akhtar’s extraordinary debut novel and his extraordinary debut as an audio narrator. Hayat Shah, the only son of well-to-do, non-observant Pakistani parents living in Milwaukee in the 1980s, is on the brink of adolescence when his mother’s best friend moves in with them. Mina, beautiful and brilliant, a fervent but liberal Muslim, awakens Hayat’s intellectual interest in the Koran and religious certainty, without realizing that she’s the object of his first, fierce feelings of pubescent lust—and without Hayat understanding the consequences of childish spite (think Atonement). As Hayat’s coming-of-age struggles get snarled in Mina’s romance with his father’s best friend, a Jewish doctor, they all get caught up in a stew of bigotry and belief, the complex contradictions of assimilation and ethnic identity, heritage and heartbreak.
Listen to a sample of Death Comes to Pemberley!